49ers must get Davis involved with Manningham out

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49ers must get Davis involved with Manningham out

Just like a year ago, the 49ers will enter the playoffs short-handed at wide receiver.

The 49ers have played two games without Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams. And they will be without their services for the remainder of the season due to significant knee injuries.

At the time Williams was lost for the season, he was third among the 49ers wideouts in playing time. Despite missing three full games due to injuries, Manningham ranks as the 49ers' second-leading receiver with 42 catches for 449 yards.

Manningham must undergo season-ending knee surgery after sustaining torn ligaments in the 49ers' 42-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. Williams' season came to an end on Nov. 25 when his ACL was torn against the New Orleans Saints.

Both players face long rehabilitation roads and are not likely to be available when training camp opens next summer.

In order for the 49ers' offense to compensate for the loss of Manningham, they must start to get production from tight end Vernon Davis, who has virtually disappeared over the past nine games. During that stretch, Davis has averaged just 22.6 yards receiving per game.

Randy Moss, 35, a 14-year veteran, is now the 49ers' No. 2 wide receiver. In 2010, when he played for three teams, Moss caught 28 passes for 393 yards and five touchdowns. This year, he has just 26 receptions for 406 yards and three touchdowns.

Michael Crabtree, who is just 67 yards shy of becoming the 49ers' first 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003, leads the 49ers with 77 receptions and seven touchdowns.

Moss and second tight end Delanie Walker are the two players who saw the biggest increases in playing time in the two games the 49ers played without Williams and Manningham.

Moss played 60.8 percent of the snaps in the games against Miami and New England when Manningham and Williams were not available. In the other 13 games, Moss played just 36.2 percent.

Walker's play time increased to 70.4 percent from 54.4 percent in the two games that neither Manningham nor Williams was available.

Rookie A.J. Jenkins is expected to suit up for games now -- just as he did in the two games when the 49ers were down to four healthy wide receivers on their 53-man roster. But Jenkins played just eight snaps apiece in those games and never saw a pass thrown his way.

Ted Ginn, the 49ers' punt-return specialist, has played just 57 snaps of offense the entire season. He has just two catches for 1 yard on the season. So there is no reason to expect much -- if any -- production from the 49ers' third receiver.

Wide receivers Ricardo Lockette and Chad Hall are currently on the 49ers' practice squad.

The 49ers were determined to increase their depth at wide receiver and running back to ensure they would not run out of healthy players again. In addition to the signings of Manningham and Moss, the 49ers drafted Jenkins in the first round, but he has yet to prove he is ready to be a factor.

The 49ers also signed promising undrafted rookies, Chris Owusu and Nathan Palmer, who did not survive the final cuts and are on the 53-man rosters of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts, respectively.

At running back, the 49ers signed veteran Brandon Jacobs, who became disgruntled with his lack of playing time and was suspended. Second-round draft pick LaMichael James spent the first 13 games inactive before being pressed into service when backup Kendall Hunter sustained a season-ending Achilles injury.

The 49ers began last season with Crabtree, Joshua Morgan and Braylon Edwards as their top three receivers. Morgan sustained a season-ending injury and Edwards was injured, then released late in the season. Ginn was unavailable for the NFC Championship game, forcing the 49ers to go with Crabtree, Williams and Brett Swain as their top three receivers.

Now, more than ever, the 49ers need to get production from Davis, who is having his worst season since 2008, when then-offensive coordinator Mike Martz de-emphasized the tight end position.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman and quarterback Colin Kaepernick have not found ways to consistently get the ball to Davis. That's mostly been forgiven because the 49ers (10-4-1) are in line to win the NFC West for a second consecutive season with a victory Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals. They can still be the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs with a win Sunday, coupled with a Green Bay loss at Minnesota.

Now, it's essential that Davis returns as a key component in the passing game because there are few other reliable options.

Davis should be available for the 49ers' regular-season finale against the Cardinals after sustaining a mild concussion Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks.

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”

 

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”